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Collared Lemur (Eulemur collaris) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Taxonomic History and Nomenclature

  • Common name
    • Collared lemur (Johnson 2006)
    • Red-collared or red-collared brown lemur (Andriaholinirina et al. 2014; ITIS 2015)
    • Uncommonly known as the yellow-whiskered lemur (Hill 1953)
    • Etymology
      • Name refers to the collar of hair which rings the face
  • Scientific name
    • Etymology (from Brown 1956)
      • Genus Eulemur refers to true lemurs
        • Eu from Greek meaning “true”
      • Specific epithet collaris from the Latin word collare, meaning “an iron band or chain for the neck”
    • Taxonomic history
      • Formerly a subspecies of E. fulvus (Andriaholinirina et al. 2014)
    • Synonyms (from ITIS 2015)
      • Prosimia melanocephala
      • Prosimia xanthomystax

Evolutionary History

  • Lemur origins
    • Lemur divergence
      • Split of lemurs and lorisiformes (lorises and pottos; small arboreal primates of Africa and Asia) (from Hovarth et al. 2008)
        • 84.4 - 66.9 million years ago (Mya)
    • Malagasy lemurs
      • Ancestral lemurs arrived on Madagascar after it separated from African and Indian land masses (from Hovarth et al. 2008)
        • 80 – 50 Mya
  • Malagasy lemur diversity and divergence (from Mittermeier et al. 2010 unless otherwise noted)
    • Diversity
      • Account for >15% of extant (living) primate diversity (Hovarth et al. 2008)
        • 5 major (lemuriform) lineages; all descended from a single common ancestor (Hovarth et al. 2008; Yoder and Yang 2004)
          • Daubentoniidae: represented by the aye-aye; 1 genus
          • Indriidae: indris, sifakas, and their relatives; 19 species in 3 genera
          • Lepilemuridae: sportive lemurs; 26 species in 1 genus
          • Cheirogaleidae: dwarf and mouse lemurs; 30 species in 5 genera
          • Lemuridae: true and bamboo lemurs; 25 species in 5 genera
    • Origin estimates for major lineages (from Hovarth et al. 2008)
      • Daubentonia ancestors arise early in lemur evolution
      • Indriidae diverged c. 42.4 - 30.33 Mya, followed by Lepilemuridae c. 18.62-29.05 Mya
      • Lemuridae and Cheirogaleidae began to diversify around the same time
        • c. 29 - 18.6 Mya
  • Family Lemuridae (from Schwitzer et al. 2013 unless otherwise noted)
    • Best-known and one of the most widespread families of lemurs
    • 5 genera (extant); divided into two groupings
      • Bamboo lemurs; some populations have a specialized bamboo diet
        • Some species reside in bamboo-free areas and consume sedges, grasses, fruit, leaves, fungi and other plant foods.
      • True lemurs; diet largely fruit
        • Lemur
        • Varecia
        • Eulemur
  • Brown lemurs (subset of species within the genus Eulemur)
    • Diversity (from Johnson et al. 2008; Markolf et al. 2013; Schwitzer et al. 2013)
      • Referred to as Brown Lemur Complex (BLC), includes 7 species
        • E. fulvus, E. rufus, E. sanfordi, E. albifrons, E. cinereiceps, E. collaris, and E. rufifrons
          • All formerly treated as subspecies of E. fulvus
        • Specific and subspecific designations debated among experts
      • All species of this group are sexually dichromatic (marked difference in the color of males and females)
        • Hair of ear tufts, ruffs, and collars may be used to differentiate males from females
    • Sister group of genera Lemur and Hapalemur (Hovarth et al. 2008; Yoder and Yang 2004)
      • Estimated divergence time
        • c. 14.6 - 6.6 Mya (Yoder and Yang 2004)
        • c. 24.53 - 15.43 Mya (Hovarth et al. 2008)
      • Last common ancestor identified as Varecia, near the Oligocene/Miocene boundary (Hovarth et al. 2008)
        • c. 35.9 - 26.4 Mya (Yoder and Yang 2004)
        • c. 29.05 - 18.62 Mya (Hovarth et al. 2008)
    • Modern species diversified within the past 11.5 million years (Hovarth et al. 2008)
  • Species Eulemur collaris
    • Sister species of E. cinereiceps (Pastorini et al. 2002; Markolf et al. 2013)
    • Hybridization, in managed care
      • Cross with E. fulvus results in fertile, hybrid offspring (from Buettner-Janusch and Hamilton 1979)
        • Offspring have 30 chromosome pairs (2n=60)
      • Cross with E. albocollaris produces offspring with limited fertility (from Buettner-Janusch and Hamilton 1979; Djlelati et al. 1997; Dutrillaux and Rumpler 1977)
    • Hybridization, in the wild (from Donati et al. 2009; Markolf et al. 2013)
      • E. collaris and E. rufifrons hybrids present at Berenty Reserve along the Mandrare River
        • Both species were introduced within the reserve and hybridized after introduction

Cultural History

  • Popular culture resources
    • Documentary appearances
      • Island of Lemurs: Madagascar – 2014 IMAX film released by Warner Brothers/IMAX, narrated by Morgan Freeman; follows Dr. Patricia C. Wright’s mission to help lemurs
      • In the Wild: Lemurs with John Cleese – 1999 Tigress Production; a humorous and adventurous look into the lives of various lemur species


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Suborder: Strepsirrhini

Family: Lemuridae

Genus: Eulemur

Species: E. collaris - Collared lemur

(Saint-Hilaire, 1812; ITIS 2015)

Eulemur collaris

a painting of a collared Lemur

Prosimia melanocephala. Illustration by Joseph Wolf in Proceedings of the General Meetings for Scientific Business of the Zoological Society of London. Image from WikiMedia Commons. Public domain (United Kingdom and U.S.).

Page Citations

Andriaholinirina et al. (2014)
Brown (1956)
Buettner-Janusch and Hamilton (1979)
Djlelati et al. (1997)
Donati et al. (2009)
Dutrillaux and Rumpler (1977)
Eppley et al. (2011)
Hill (1953)
Hovarth et al. (2008)
ITIS (2015)
Johnson (2006)
Johnson et al. (2008)
Markolf et al. (2013
Mittermeier et al. (2010)
Mutschler (1999)
Pastorini et al. (2002)
Schwitzer et al. (2013)
Yoder and Yang (2004)

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